Original Welbike Technical Information
With my re-printed Welbike manual in front of me, here are some measurements, just in case you're interested.
Wheel base: 39 1/2 inches
Wheels: 12 1/2" x 2 1/4"
Overall length: 4 feet, 3 inches
Width: 12 inches folded
Height: 15 inches folded
Below is a link that will download an Adobe Acrobat file of a line drawing of the Welbike, something that should prove
useful if you want to make your own replica. The drawing has no dimensions on it, but it should be accurate enough that
you can scale it using the data given above.
WELBIKE PROFILE AND PLAN VIEW DRAWING (PDF FORMAT)
ORIGINAL OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS:
To start a Welbike (copied verbatim from the Army operator's manual):
Raise steering column until the supporting member is secured by the locking pin.
The handlebars will fall into position naturally, but must be locked into position by tightening the milled screw
on the handlebar pivot.
Raise and tighten the seat.
Remove both the fuel tank fill cap AND the vent cap on the opposite tank when filling, to ensure fuel flows into both
tanks. Fuel is 1 gallon of gasoline mixed with 1/2 pint of "best engine oil" which should be shaken before pouring into
With the tank sealed, unscrew the pump plunger and pressurize the tanks with 6 "sharp" strokes of the pump.
Open the "stop valve" of the tank so fuel flows to the carburetor.
Flood the carburetor by pushing down on the spring-loaded lever mounted on the carburetor until fuel is seen dripping.
Close the choke slide.
Sit on the Welbike and pull the clutch lever all the way back with your left hand.
Open the throttle slightly with your right hand.
Push the Welbike a few steps, and with all your weight on the saddle, let out the clutch. The engine will start.
Use the clutch to let the Welbike idle without moving, but remember there is no neutral gear in the Welbike.
Open the choke slide after 30 seconds.
(end of original instructions)
To stop the engine:
Since there was no ignition switch, the engine had to be stalled by bringing the Welbike to a complete stop with the
clutch engaged. The fuel could also be turned off at the tank, but my experience is it takes an engine like this 10
to 20 minutes to burn through the fuel remaining in the fuel line and carburetor.
Operational considerations (according to FROM WELBIKE TO CORGI):
■ Welbikes were delivered in their tanks
full of fuel, so all the soldier had to do was unfold the Welbike, pressurize the tank, and ride off.
■ The tanks had to be re-pressurized every
couple of miles, or else the engine would stop running due to fuel starvation.
■ The wheels were really too small to go
cross-country, and would commonly dig into any holes they ran across.
Data, Parts and Supplies Availible in the Modern World
I've been told of a new manufacturer of Welbike parts:
http://www.welbikeuk.com/about.php aka Welbike UK Ltd.
They're currently advertising reproduction parts. When I first saw this site, they also advertised they were selling a
single reproduction Welbike, complete and running. They're no longer advertising the bike.
■ The Villiers 98cc engine is still availible
in the United Kingdom and Europe, although what you're most likely to find are ex-lawnmower engines with cylinder heads
that are mounted slightly different from the Welbike's engine. To use these lawnmower engines, you'll have to change
the orientation of the cylinder head, since the spark plug won't fit behind the fuel tanks of the Welbike. The Villiers
was also used to power the Corgi (the Welbike's post-war derivative), which is also a very collectable motor-scooter.
■ According to technical data I've found, these
engines were produced with very large internal clearances. While this allowed the engine to produce full power
with no break-in period, this also resulted in these engines wearing out rapidly, which made anything powered by the
engine considered as a disposable item. I've come across many stories of Welbikes and Corgis being sold by their
owners for as little as US$15 after only 2 or 3 years of use.
UPDATE: July, 2009
A visitor directed me to a company in the United Kingdom that services the Villiers engine. They mainly work on
post-war engines and bikes, but they do advertise service on wartime equipment. If you have an original Welbike with
a busted engine, this is the place you're looking for.
Click here to go to Villiers Services, UK.
■ There are replacement fuel tank pressurization
pumps being made in limited numbers, they appear on Ebay from time to time. There is also a manufacturer of Welbikes
parts based in India, and he is a member of the Yahoo Welbikes group.
MANUALS AND INFORMATION
■ Also availible is a film that shows a real
Welbike in action (albeit during a training excercise). Go to the gift shop of the Imperial War Museum (IWM) and look
at their DVD section. There you will find "British Airborne Forces At War" which is a collection of six wartime film
documentaries featuring the Parachute Regiment. One of the films was made during a large-scale excercise and features
all their specialized equipment, including the Welbike (of course). These IWM DVDs are region O (zero) so if you're
living in the United States, some DVD players won't play it. However, the DVD player on your computer usually isn't
as sensitive to region settings and should play the disc without any problems. That's how I watch my copy.
■ For those of you that want to learn more
about the Welbike than I could ever write about here, do an Ebay search for "Welbike" and you'll find a book
titled FROM WELBIKE TO CORGI: EDITION 2, by Peter Miller. It's an excellent collection of almost everything you'll
ever want to know about this unique vehicle.
UPDATE: as of September of 2007, this book is out of print.
An excellent source of information is the Yahoo Group for Welbikes. You must register with Yahoo to gain access to the
group, but it's free and I've never been bothered by Yahoo since I registered in 2003. I have a link directly to this
group in my links page.
update: This group has become rather quiet, but there are still people monitoring the group's messages.
A Dutch fellow selling reproduction Welbike manuals has contacted me. He is Rob van Meel at;
the Welbike Driver's and Maintenance manuals, plus the Welbike Spare Parts list, and Villiers Junior Deluxe Instructions and
Spares book. Look under British/Commonwealth: Vehicles: Excelsior.
■ A reasonably close copy of the
wartime Dunlop tread pattern is made by the Cheng Shin Tire Company of China. It's listed in their 2007 catalog
as tread pattern #C177 in their "Industrial Tires" catalog, part number BRM19M. Supposidly, the SOE Museum at Herefordshire
used a pair of these tires when they restored their Welbike and converted them to WWII specification by shaving
off the Chinese markings and added the proper War Department "W broad-arrow D" marks.
A NOTE ABOUT THIS TIRE: This is an industrial tire and is not speed rated. This
means that while the tire is perfectly safe at the low speeds that anyone would (or should) operate a Welbike, it's not
considered strong enough for use on a full sized vehicle. I suspect this is why I have not found a scooter
store that will stock this tire, due to liability issues.
There are several scooter on-line stores, the one I've used for some parts for my Welbike replica is;
who seem to be reputable and stock the tires, too.
The correct color for the Welbike has become somewhat less certain as of 2011. I originally thought the colors
should be green for Mark I's, and brown for Mark II's, but now I've seen three unrestored Mark II's that show their original
color to be green. That may reflect the standard British Army practice of painting all vehicles recieved into supply
depots with whatever color was considered standard for that theater of operations. For instance, desert vehicles were
all painted tan, Northern Europe vehicles Olive Drab. Stay tuned while I research this.
What Are They Worth?
Your humble reporter here has added this section in response to the single most frequently asked question I get
from this site. I really don't know why I'm adding it, since this information is only going to guarantee that I'll never
be able to afford a real Welbike, but here it is anyway.
Like all military collectables, price depends on condition. Mint condition for a Welbike is the correct color, a
running engine; original Dunlop tires with "WD" markings; all hinges and mechanisms working; saddle in good condition; and
intact original decals.
Commonly, Welbikes are found here in the USA with blue paint (applied by Gimble's after the war), (semi-)complete
but inoperative engine, original tires (dried out and unusable), and all other hinges and mechanisms complete and operating.
The biggest factor is that Welbikes are a limited interest item; if you connect with someone who wants one,
they can be worth a lot. I used to say that Welbikes aren't as well known as the trucks and jeeps that were used
in WWII, so there are times that collectors of Welbikes are a bit more difficult to find. Recent history (2009 through
2012 selling activity) suggests there are plenty of Welbike fans out there that are actively searching for these
"OK! BUT HOW MUCH ARE THEY WORTH??" I hear you cry, well...
Welbike sales that I have seen:
In 2003 a Welbike with a running engine was sold by a person in Los Angeles on Ebay for $5500, unknown quality.
In April of 2006, another Welbike was sold in Australia for AU$6200 (at the time roughly US$5000). It was in
display (mint) condition and was part of the auctioning of the largest military vehicle collection on the Australian
continent after its owner passed away. That was a sad day.
In late July, 2006, a Welbike sold on Ebay for $3806. It was painted bright blue and white, and had an
air raid siren mounted to run off of the engine's flywheel. It had been used by the Shriners in their parades
and I believe the engine was in operating condition and was in good condition.
In June, 2009 I learned of a Welbike that will soon be put up for sale at Ebay. Stay tuned... UPDATE
12/09/09: This machine sold on Ebay for $6,356. It was described as 95% complete; the missing parts
appeared to be the ignition wires, there was no fuel tank pressure pump visible, and one of the fuel tank caps had
a crossbar crudely welded to it. The bike had the remains of the blue paint commonly found on Welbikes sold
in the USA, but the paint had mostly been replaced with surface rust.
Additionally, I was told in September 2009 of a Welbike coming up for sale at a professional auction house with
a starting price of $8500, expected to get $22,000! In December of 2009 I found evidence that suggested the
actual auction had been held in December of 2007 in Michigan, and the bike sold for $6,600. The single, fairly
small picture showed what looked like a complete Welbike in proper British O-D green, but no mention of condition
was made, my guess was fair to good condition.
The Welbike seen below was sold on Ebay on May 15, 2012 for US $4,686.78. Described to me as "found in a forest"
it was missing it's rear tire and drive chain.
|Welbike sold on Ebay in 2012.
IF YOU CONTACT ME FOR A GUESS AS TO THE VALUE, AGE, OR QUALITY OF
Please be prepared to send a couple of pictures when I respond to your email, and be sure they're well in focus and reasonably
sized (about 100kb is good for a .jpg format picture); I can't tell you anything about what you have without seeing it.
Remember, too, that I can't give you an appraisal of your Welbike, only an educated guess as to how much money your
machine may sell for at an auction. Actual selling price of your machine at an auction (or where you should set
your initial asking price to get the bidding started) will vary widely.
To identify your Welbike, the most useful information you can send me is the frame number and/or the contract number.
Without this, I can only venture a guess as to what you have.
The first photo shows where the frame number is stamped into the metal of the headstem. This is at the front of
the Welbike's frame and the funny, grey shape at the bottom of the picture is a shop light used to illuminate the headstem.
This number can be difficult to see if several coats of paint have been applied.
|Frame number on head stem.
The second photo shows the location of the dataplate found on some Welbikes. This is looking down at the left side
of the frame, just behind the engine, with the dusty drive chain crossing along the top of the picture. The vertical
tube behind the chain is the seat stem. The important information contained here is the Army contract number.
Either the frame number or contract number can be used to identify your bike, but it's useful to have both.
|Dataplate on seat stem base.
EXCELSIOR WELBIKE OR BROCKHOUSE CORGI?
Recently there's been a number of people asking me about their "funny looking" Welbike, that's actually a Brockhouse
Corgi. Take a close look at the bottom of the page of WWII Welbikes
The Welbike has a single steering column, while the Corgi has two. Also, the fuel tank is in a difference position.
Plus, the Corgi has front and rear brakes, and lights.
On to page 4: My (almost) Welbike